Sestak Confirms He Turned Down Unpaid White House Job

Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:29pm

Updated: 6:21 p.m.

Rep. Joe Sestak confirmed Friday that he turned down an offer for a presidential advisory post as he was weighing a challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, but he insisted there was nothing wrong with the administration offering an unpaid position.

Sestak said former President Bill Clinton called him in July with the offer on behalf of the Obama administration.

“There was nothing wrong that was done,” Sestak told reporters gathered on the Capitol steps. “If I ever thought anything had been wrong about this, I would have reported it.”

Sestak, a retired Navy admiral, said in a statement earlier in the day that Clinton “expressed concern over my prospects if I were to enter the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate and the value of having me stay in the House of Representatives because of my military background.”

Sestak, who ousted Specter in the May 18 primary, said Clinton told him he’d spoken with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel about getting him a seat on a presidential board if he were to stay in the House. Sestak said he declined.

“I told President Clinton that my only consideration in getting into the Senate race or not was whether it was the right thing to do for Pennsylvania working families and not any offer,” said Sestak. “The former President said he knew I’d say that, and the conversation moved on to other subjects.”

Sestak said he never even understood what the job was, just that it was some sort of presidential board dealing with intelligence or defense.

He said the former president called just once to make the offer and that it never came up again. Sestak estimated that the offer part of the conversation lasted 30 seconds to a minute.

Earlier Friday, White House counsel Robert Bauer issued a statement acknowledging that Clinton approached Sestak about the unpaid position and insisting that none of it was improper.

Sestak told reporters Thursday that an unnamed White House official had contacted his brother, Richard Sestak, who works as his campaign director, this week to discuss “what was going to occur” in terms of the White House announcement to try to clarify events surrounding the situation.

Republicans on Friday blasted Bauer’s memo; several GOP Members have called for a special prosecutor to probe the case further.

But Sestak told reporters Friday afternoon that he saw no need for a special prosecutor.